Brian May video interview with Amateur Photographer


Brian May on all things photography – 23 May 2017



To me it’s magic and always will be.  You know we are designed with two eyes not one for a very good reason because the experience that you get from stereopsis is a thousand times more real than what you get from just looking with one eye at the universe.

Well I got my photography from my Dad who was a very good photographer and he processed all his stuff himself.  He taught me how to develop films – black and white films – and to print them so I had a very good grounding in photography.  What nobody had done though my family was experienced 3-D photography and so when this thing came in the cereal package and I went “What’s this? – a little card with two pictures on it which looked the same.  How does this work?” and then they said send away one and sixpence and a packet top for your viewer which I did and I put the card in the viewer when it came and magic moment.  I mean completely magic because suddenly instead of two little flat pictures I’m looking through a window on a scene which looks real and the hippopotamus as it was, ‘cos they had animal cards, was actually in my face.  It was like I was going to disappear down his throat.  I could almost smell his breath and I thought ,“This is the way photography should be.  Why doesn’t everybody do stereoscopic photography the whole time?  Why are people just satisfied with flat pictures?”  Do you know what?  I’ve never changed my mind.  I always feel the same way.

I had the opportunity to travel the whole world and meet people with similar kinds of passion for stereo photography as I had, so I, all around the world, every country in Europe, Japan, but particularly America, I sought out collectors and dealers and photographic people and became part of that whole community, which I still feel I’m a part.

In these days I have to work, sleep and eat, you know.  There’s not that much time, but in those days I was young.  I would get up in the morning.  We’d go up some high tower some place and see which city we’re in.  “This is Chicago.  What’s Chicago look like?”, and then I would find the photo people and I’d already prepared it and I would go…  I remember this place called Bell Park Photo in Chicago, and the guy had been there for many years, all through the boom of 1950s stereo cameras, he had all the gear there.  He took a liking to me because I was so passionate about it and he would bring me all these cameras like Stereo Realists, Ilocas and the projectors that went with them, and all the gear for mounting pictures.  Incredible – absolutely incredible.

The idea of a book?  Well you see I’ve been the London Stereoscopic Company for a few years now.  I revitalized this company, which was something which had a massive influence on the 1850s.  You’re looking like 150 years ago this was a huge undertaking.

I founded this company with the idea of bringing all that stereoscopic excitement into the 21st century and so far we published four books, all with viewer, which I designed myself, ‘cos you had to.  There had to be a workable stereoscope, but they’re all reproductions of Victorian sensations.

This is the first book which has pictures in which are modern young.  I mean relatively modern.  We’re talking like 40 years old some of them, ’cos it’s my pictures and It’s my pictures we’re publishing the book. The idea came from thinking, “Well you know it would be lovely to bring these things together.  I have the pictures.  Who knows how many pictures I have?”  I had no idea if it was enough for a book and each picture tells a story, so how nice it would be to bring this to the focus of Queen fans but also I think anyone who’s interested in that period of history and interested in stereoscopy for its own sake.

Well I’m monstrously geeky, you know, so the idea of spending 50 or 100 hours taking off the bits of dust from a photograph is not foreign to me, you know, and then aligning and adjusting the convergence and making it so that it’s a picture which can be enjoyed and doesn’t give you headaches.

Japan has been very big in our lives.  You know we visited many times and they really embraced us to their hearts and of course it’s so colourful and it is inherently beautiful and stereoscopic – all the gardens and the markets and stuff.  There’s a lovely…  I think one of my favourite pictures in the whole book is my little boy held in my arms and we’re looking at all the colourful bells and charms and traditional artefacts in Asakusa.

But there are so many things which are close to my heart in the book, and the whole South American experience was a big deal and still is a big deal, you know, and the fact that we’re playing Argentina when we’re just in our country’s preparing to go to war and even all through the war and after the war one of our records is number one in Argentina, gave us a very different world view from what you would get if you just stood in England.  And I’m totally against unnecessary conflict and I think, you know, unfortunately our aggressive foreign policy over the years recently has contributed to the instability which we have in this country now.

Every day in my life I find something that’s new in stereoscopy and, of course, we have the whole virtual reality thing going on now which is basically stereoscopy at its best.  To me it’s a never-ending journey of discovery.